If you enjoy the flea market trappings of exposed brick walls, leather-bound books, and quirky vintage furniture, you may enjoy a night's stay at Union Street Guest House, a hotel tucked near the Catskills in Hudson, New York. Its vibes resemble a Portlandia sketch.
Union Street Guest House, however, has an interesting policy for dealing with some of its negative reviews from guests: a $500 fine, for anyone who has booked a wedding or event there, PageSix reports.
"Our furniture is mostly hip, period furniture that you would see in many design magazines," writes the hotel on its events page. "If your guests are looking for a Marriott type hotel they may not like it here." However (emphasis added, sic throughout):
If you have booked the Inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at USGH there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH placed on any internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding or event If you stay here to attend a wedding anywhere in the area and leave us a negative review on any internet site you agree to a $500. fine for each negative review.
The fee will be refunded if—only if—the negative review is taken down. But that hasn't stopped a small militia of aggrieved Yelpers from taking to USGH's page to voice their displeasure with the business's policies.
"Horrible policies created by a Gestapo like management trying to intimidate customers into leaving good reviews," writes one Yelper from Clarksville, Tennessee. "This place should be relocated to china [sic]," notes another from Temple, Pennsylvania. "They have a policy about reviews that is unamerican [sic]. Go someplace else."
This dude is even offering USGH free, unsolicited advice, because #branding:
Fast Company tried calling the hotel at the number listed with a few questions and got a busy signal every time. We reached out via email and will update this post if we hear back.
Yelp, to its credit, has been proactive about aggressively screening fake reviews and trolls, so it's unlikely that many of these will stay up for very long. But an online review can have tangible, long-lasting effects on a local business: One Harvard Business School study from 2011 discovered an additional 5% to 9% increase in revenue per each additional star on Yelp.
USGH currently has one-and-a-half stars.
Update 12:54 p.m. ET: Union Street Guest House posted a statement on its Facebook page. Make of it what you will:
The policy regarding wedding fines was put on our site as a tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding many years ago. It was meant to be taken down long ago and certainly was never enforced.
Cheeky indeed! One review, though, posted in November 2013—well before PageSix's story broke—alleges that USGH's negative fine policy was actually enforced on his wedding party:
Also: The language on its website has been changed. Any mention of a $500 fine for bad reviews is gone.